It wasn’t long after Jacob Pinckney began sneaking into his mom’s office to borrow her nursing books and soak up knowledge that he began nursing dreams of donning a long white coat.
Becoming a doctor — a parent’s dream job for a child.
However, for Jacob, his self-proclaimed prognosis abruptly flat-lined before it ever really breathed life.
Early on, his parents noticed Jacob flouted developmental milestones. He struggled to read beginner books. When it came to writing, his brain seemed to operate faster than his fingers could keep up.
Teachers segregated him during tests because they reckoned Jacob would die of embarrassment during tests. Though well intentioned, he was slowly dying from isolation.
“It made me a shy child,” he says. “I couldn’t do normal things in normal classes like other children do. It was isolation. That was rough. First thing in my mind, what’s wrong with me?”
Nothing, his parents assured. Still, they searched for help.
Although Jacob was well behaved and sedate, when he turned eight doctors turned to Ritalin. Over the next half-dozen years came a cocktail of Lovan and other drugs to decelerate his mind.
“My body was more of a pill mill than anything else,” he says.
Jacob remembers painful discussions between therapists and school personnel and his parents that dimmed the light on his prospects.
“Early on there were discussions with my parents that you need to come to the realization that your son doesn’t have a developmental disorder or mental handicap, but he’s probably not going to be at the level of a normal person, go to college or graduate high school,” Jacob recalls.
A prophecy his parents refused to concede. And one afternoon when both came to pick up Jacob from school after yet another parent-teacher discussion, they let him know it.
“My dad is a quiet man, a very private Southern gentleman,” he says, noting his mother shares those qualities too, but in the car, “both turned around and looked at me and said, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. If you someone puts you down and you allow them, that person was right.”
It wasn’t until he was nearly 11 that doctors conceded that attention deficit disorder (ADD) might not be what was speeding Jacob up.
Indeed, only after a pair of developmental psychologists began extensive testing anew on him that they identified the true culprit: dyslexia.
A breed of the language-based learning disability that affects reading fluency, decoding, writing and reading comprehension so severe it revved up Jacob’s brain and turned his writing into unintelligible jumbles.
“I would write out the whole sentence before [completing] the first word, so was a jumble,” he recalls. “Typing was horrible; my fingers were moving, but the sentence made no sense. But I was pretty darn quick.”
Knowing was half the battle; the other half was also dealing with diagnoses of general anxiety disorder and depression that came soon after.
Then, there was accepting that his doctor dream was DOA.
“The one thing that I did regret was that, while I knew that there’s no such thing as putting limits on myself, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to medical schools because they wouldn’t have the things I needed or support to succeed.”
That heartbreak didn’t derail Jacob’s momentum.
With afterschool help and a yen to prove the predictions a lie, Jacob pushed through private school, and graduated.
Both his parents attended college. Yet, knowing Jacob’s learning challenges, they delegated the choice of attending college to Jacob. Think on it, they said.
The next morning, Jacob shared his answer: Four more years!
If I made it this far,” he says, “only four more years would help me to be more successful.”
That is, at the right college.
His parents and he realized he woudn’t thrive as a big man on campus at a big university. So, they began to consider smaller colleges, until a family friend suggested Beacon.
At first, Jacob balked.
“I looked at my mom, and said, ‘this entire time you said there’s nothing wrong with me, but now you’re looking at schools for learning disabilities.’ That was counterintuitive.”
Until his mother shared a secret — the material is the same, what’s different is how it’s taught.
Suddenly, it clicked. Beacon became the only school on Jacob’s radar.
Once enrolled, he discovered his mom was right.
“Beacon was good at explaining. Everything. There was no question who the teachers were or what classes I needed. I knew everything before I started and I thought that was great.”
Nor was there the awkward transition that students with learning disabilities often have on a mainstream campus, the shame of having to ask for help and being outed as different.
“Fitting in was almost too easy because everyone was very accepting because everyone knew what we’d gone through just to graduate high school. That was the a-ha moment: Now, we’re here, and let’s make a new memory.”
And he did. Even when he thought the ride was over when he was faced with his Kryptonite: a semester of math.
“I called my parents and said, ‘well this has been fun, but there’s math.’”
Yet, to his surprise, Jacob aced the class, thanks to the supportive technology and tailored tutoring the Beacon-model provides.
Graduation was a mix of relief, accomplishment and trepidation. Not only did a weak job market loom, but also Jacob wondered who’d hire someone with his challenges.
Still, Jacob knew he only needed one “yes.”
And Sherman Williams said the magic word two months after graduation, offering Jacob a sales job in its chemical coding and paint division.
Jacob was grateful. Just not satisfied.
For four years, he worked hard, gained experience, but he couldn’t shake that old dream conceived in his mother’s office.
Then, last year, he took a job as a market manager with Exact Sciences, a medical logistics company. Jacob consults with doctors about colo-rectal cancer screening through his company’s DNA markers product.
Beacon couldn’t save Jacob’s dream to wear a white coat. However, his four years at Beacon equipped Jacob to perform a facelift on his health-care dream and successfully operate in a career germane to his lifelong passion.
Jacob Pinckney is a class of 2010 Liberal Arts graduate who now works as a market manager.